Electrical Power & Protection

Gain more visibility into your power substation operations

July 2022 Electrical Power & Protection

In substations, real-time monitoring is always of critical importance. However, for substations whose operations run on many legacy devices, real-time monitoring can be an enormous challenge for operators. While most substations are open to the idea of retrofitting, tight budgets curtail them most of the time. For these budget-challenged substations, the ideal solution is one that bridges a legacy infrastructure to an IEC 61850 network without breaking the bank.

The complications

To have a better understanding of these substations’ dilemma requires a closer look at the key aspect: many remote terminal units (RTUs), human-machine interfaces, Ethernet switches and intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) installed in substations are from different vendors. They usually use proprietary or industrial protocols, making it extremely difficult for a power scada system to monitor the entire station.

These days, new power scada supervision commonly supports the IEC 61850 MMS protocol. Thus, operators can bridge the communication between field devices and an IEC 61850-based power scada system so that they can monitor power quality in real time. In addition, the increasing number of cyberattacks at substations makes network communication security more important than ever. Consequently, operators are looking for a secure communication solution that will reduce security concerns when they are retrofitting power substations.

Streamlining communications for a variety of industrial protocols

Mission-critical IEDs need to communicate with power scada systems directly so that operators can monitor power quality in real time and take immediate action when accidents happen. Compared with computing platforms, communication gateways are a cost-effective solution as they have a variety of built-in power industry-related protocols, such as IEC 61850 MMS, Modbus RTU/TCP, DNP3 serial/TCP, IEC 60870-5-101 and IEC 60870-5-104. These communication gateways easily bridge the communications between the IEC 61850-based scada systems and the different legacy IEDs used in substation automation systems.

However, when using gateways to bridge communication between a variety of industrial protocols and the IEC 61850 MMS protocol, it takes a significant amount of time to edit the Substation Configuration Language (SCL) of IEC 61850 because of its complex settings. Fortunately, tools are available in the market to make this process more efficient. Therefore, consider adopting one of these useful engineering tools to simplify the complexity of editing SCL files when dealing with large-scale substation retrofit projects. However, additional budget is required for this purchase.

Monitoring proprietary-based field devices without replacement

Most certainly, substations that have been operating for decades have legacy devices running proprietary communication protocols, and it is not cost-effective to replace all of them at once. If substation automation systems need to be upgraded to modern Ethernet-based scada, monitoring these field devices with minimal cost and effort is essential.

Adopting a connectivity solution such as serial device servers is an easy means of providing transparent connectivity between IEC 61850-based power scada systems and proprietary-based field devices. In this way, power scada monitors these legacy proprietary-based field devices by decapsulating Ethernet proprietary protocols.

Moxa’s solutions

Moxa, as an edge connectivity solution provider, provides a variety of connectivity solutions for different application demands. To streamline communication, its MGate 5119 Series is an easy-to-use substation gateway. It not only establishes communication easily from Modbus, DNP3, IEC 60870-5-101 and IEC 60870-5-104 devices to IEC 61850 communication networks, but also supports NTP time synchronisation functions to provide data with a consistent time stamp. The gateway also supports a built-in SCL file generator that completes SCL files to obviate the need to spend time and money looking for additional tools.

To monitor proprietary-based field devices, the NPort S9000 Series is a serial device server that migrates serial IEDs to an Ethernet-based infrastructure for legacy substation retrofits. It supports up to 16-port serial interfaces, 4-port Ethernet switching and Ethernet-encapsulated proprietary protocols to connect field devices to scada systems. In addition, the NPort S9000 Series supports NTP, SNTP, IEEE 1588v2 PTP, and IRIG-B time synchronisation functions to synchronise not only the NPort S9000 but also the legacy field devices.

When visualising substation networks, it is essential to enhance device security, which is assured by Moxa’s serial device servers and protocol gateways when connecting field devices to networks. Both device types adopt IEC 62443 and NERC CIP guidelines, featuring embedded security functions such as user authentication, accessible IP lists, and secure device configuration and management through HTTPS and TLS v1.2 to protect communication devices from unwanted access. They also perform vulnerability scans periodically so necessary actions such as security patches can be taken to enhance device security for substation networks.

In addition, Moxa’s serial device servers and protocol gateways comply with IEC 61850-3 and IEEE 1613 to ensure reliable operation in substation environments.


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